• More Than a Football Pitch

    December 20th 2018. CAC Global Citizen Jesse DiLuzio blogs from Nagpur, India about our On-Field week with longtime partner and inaugural FIFA Diversity Award winner Slum Soccer. 

    Upon leaving the airport in Nagpur, India you encounter what I, based on my limited experience in India, call “classic India”. Unfinished roads overpopulated with honking vehicles, massive cows snacking on mounds of trash, and a musty air that fills your nose with an undesirable stench. While this “classic India” of mine is certainly not a fair representation, after a week in the overcrowded chaos of New Delhi, these are the things you become accustomed to. Therefore, I was quite relieved when we drove past the industrial madness of Nagpur into the rural are of Maharashtra. Maharashtra is a small town that, upon first glance, lacks any distinctive features. There is one long, bumpy road that runs through the village flanked by a combination of small food stalls, large cows, underdeveloped homes, and small tents which sit on a ground of dust and rocks. So, you can only imagine our surprise when we first encountered the turf field that sits in the middle of this underdeveloped region. This field, surrounded on all sides by a large chain linked fence, belonged to Slum Soccer, the partner that Coaches Across Continents was set to work with that week. While I didn’t know this at the moment, this 30 x 60 piece of turf is way more than just a football pitch. 

    Slum Soccer was started around ten years ago by a university professor named Vijay Barse, who we were fortunate enough to meet. After watching kids play soccer with a broken bucket in the slums, he was inspired to set up a tournament for them so they could enjoy competition in a more formal setting. As time went on, this tournament turned into weekend sessions for the local community. Today, Slum Soccer provides educational/healthcare workshops, societal developmental programs, coaching camps, and the pure joy of a place to play football to nearly 70,000 men, women, and children across 63 districts in India. This meteoric rise from a fun football tournament for a few to an empowering resource for thousands can best be summarized in the stories of the people who work for Slum Soccer. 

    One such person is a young man named Homkant from Northern India. As a child, he grew up during the heat of the ongoing tensions between Hindu and Muslim groups in India and Pakistam. Amidst the tensions and dangers of the violence that plagued the region, Homkant was pressured to join the Hindu side. Caught between attacks on Islamic holy sites and the defense of his own sacred temples, he called this period of his life the “darkest chapter”. In the face of problems in his own home and with the local police, he left everything behind to start a new life in Nagpur. However, this “new life” was far from lucrative. He spent one year living on the streets before picking up a job at a local tea stall. This is when Slum Soccer stepped in. Without passing any judgment, the individuals in Slum Soccer found Homkant and provided with a home, three meals a day, and an opportunity to learn and build within the beautiful game. The pinnacle of this experience was being selected to represent India in the Homeless World Cup. Following these life changing moments, he has now dedicated himself full time to the organization. He is constantly running trainings and educational programs, recruits players for the Homeless World Cup and is looked up to like a big brother by the others in Slum Soccer who have also been helped off the streets. 

    Across Slum Soccer, you can find many stories similar to that of Homkant. Stories of struggle, strife, and a rebirth supported by the strong arms of Slum Soccer. However, the members of the organization are far from content. The minute we arrived they were proposing new challenges in order to take sport for development to a new level. Early on we decided that over the course of the week, we would take a step forward and teach games that would cover very intense issues such as menstruation. In many parts of rural India, there is little to no knowledge about the process of menstruation. In extreme cases, this means that women on their period are barred from entering the household because of fears that their menstrual blood will contaminate the food, water, plants, and other items in the home. Generally isolated in a shelter without food, water, and access to proper hygienic materials, thousands of young women die per year because of these myths. Additionally, 23 million women per year are forced drop out of school because of their period. Many of the women that we worked with in our time at Slum Soccer shared stories about how the lack of educational materials regarding menstruation has resulted in terrible consequences for themselves, loved ones, and other women. United under the leadership of full time CAC Coach Ashlyn, we worked to develop a number of games that teach women about the truths of menstruation through sport. Given Slum Soccer’s wide reach, we are hopeful that this will have a positive impact on many women’s lives. 

    In my four months with CAC, I’ve found that in many cases, despite all of the hard work put in on-field, you don’t quite know if sport for development will ever fully “catch-on” and have the positive impacts that you are hoping for. However, upon the completion of the week with Slum Soccer, I felt supremely confident that our partnership would have a positive impact on many lives. This confidence was fueled by the fruitful discussions, ambitious leaders, and inspirational stories that I was fortunate to come across throughout the week. While at first, the little turf field in Maharashtra just seemed like a nice place to play, I now know that the field itself is only a smart part of Slum Soccer’s commitment to forgiveness, education, opportunity and creating a home to those like Homkant who were forced to leave everything behind. I can’t wait to see the results of CAC and Slum Soccer’s partnership in the coming years. 

  • Oh Yes, We Made a Plan!

    November 14th 2017. CAC Global Citizen and Harvard Alum Heather ‘Action’ Jackson blogs from Nagpur, India about our groundbreaking partnership with Slum Soccer

    I’ve been so lucky as a CAC Global Citizen in so many ways, including having the opportunity to work with longtime partner Slum Soccer here in Bokhara, Nagpur, India. As an outside observer, it struck me that the comfort, familiarity and understanding that CAC and SS have developed together over 8 years, as people and as organizations, created an environment of trust and openness that allowed for real progress to be made this week.

    A common phrase you’ll hear whenever a decision needs to be made is “We make a plan.” This applies to almost any decision that I saw made this week incl: when to leave for Shakti Girls (Girl Power) practice; where to go for delicious Southern Indian dosa and tea; who is going to drive/be a passenger on which motorcycle (all of which read below empty on fuel) and of course which direction to take and grow an organization. Often the decision can take some time; that’s what happens when you have a lot of bright people with different ideas, and/or a lot of bikes and passengers to organize.

    And many plans were made, executed and/or in progress. Highlights include:

    Serious strides in professional and organizational development for Slum Soccer using CAC’s process consultancy framework. It’s not often easy to take the “right” next steps to grow and mature as an organization; the insight and knowledge CAC leaders provided this regard was invaluable and those next steps put into place.

    Development by senior female staff of 3 brand new games for Slum Soccer’s female health & wellness initiative, focusing specifically on menstruation. It was amazing to see the girls open up, voice frustration with, and ask about the verity of, cultural traditions and listen to the SS senior staff support, educate and inform them. You know it’s working and trust exists when the day’s program is ended, and 15 girls are circled around still asking questions and getting answers.

    42 games played with 35 coach/mentor participants, including those designed to address HIV, LGBT, Child Rights and ASK for Choice (Female Empowerment.) It’s truly rewarding to see those girls too shy at the beginning of the week to say anything or even look up from the ground, raising their arms up and shouting “I am strong” or “I have a voice” by the end of the week. Yes change can happen in 5 days.

    An amazing street food tour (once we figured out who was actually on which bike) led by senior SS staff. That “We make a plan” took some time to make following an outing to the cinema featuring Thor, my first Hindi 3D movie, but was so worth it. Thank you Slum Soccer friends and family!

  • Help A Community In Need This Christmas

    December 12th 2015. This holiday season Coaches Across Continents is asking you to help youth in at-risk disadvantaged communities all over the world. Throughout December we have been counting down (or up) CAC’s 12 communities of Christmas which you can directly support by making a donation on Firstgiving. Your donations are incredibly important to ensure that children in these communities continue to get the opportunity to learn about vital social messages and have the ability to take ownership of their own choices.

    Sentani, Indonesia, was the 7th CAC community of Christmas. Indonesia has many underserved populations living in remote regions where few international groups offer assistance. Make a donation on this Firstgiving page to directly assist these populations through our work.

    Kathmandu, Nepal was the 1st CAC community of Christmas. Support Kathmandu on this page.

    Diadema, Brazil was the 2nd CAC community of Christmas. Support Diadema on this page.

    Shkoder, Albania was the 3rd CAC community of Christmas. Support Shkoder on this page.

    Leogane, Haiti was the 4th CAC community of Christmas. Support Leogane on this page.

    Nagpur, India was the 5th CAC community of Christmas. Support Nagpur on this page.

    Stellenbosch, South Africa was the 6th CAC community of Christmas. Support Stellenbosch on this page.

    Zanzibar, Tanzania was the 8th CAC community of Christmas. Support Zanzibar on this page.

    Lubumbashi, DRC is the 9th CAC community of Christmas. Support Lubumbashi on this page.

    Keep watching our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular updates on CAC’s 12 communities of Christmas this holiday season. Don’t forget as we approach the end of the US tax year that, as a registered non-profit, your donation to Coaches Across Continents is tax-deductible. Our EIN number is 32-0249174.

    Stellenbosch, South Africa

  • Life Starts After Your Engineering Degree

    CAC SDL coach Turner Humphries talks about his 2nd week in Nagpur, India with Slum Soccer.

    December 10th 2015. Due to a cyclone developing in Chennai the decision was made to remain in Nagpur for a second week. A group of coaches from Chennai made the long train journey to Nagpur where their training would be held.

    After an hour and a half of hard work on the field we would all retreat to the small patch of shade outlined by benches with faded green, yellow and red paint. As the participants ate their breakfast of yellow rice and fruits, it offered me the opportunity to get to know them outside of being soccer coaches. For many of them their journey to becoming a coach was not so straightforward. The participants voiced their frustration with the pressure put on them by their parents. This pressure in some cases led them down a path that they had no interest in. It seemed like many of them shared similar stories, citing how their parents decided which school they would attend and which subjects they would study. Aaron, a participate from Chennai spoke to me about his time at university studying to earn a degree in engineering. ‘I had zero interest in engineering, but that didn’t matter,’ he proclaims, ‘in India every parent wants their child to be an engineer or a doctor. That decision was made for me basically as soon as I was born.’ While Aaron tells me his story his friends have been nodding their heads in agreement to every sentence. I go around to each of them and ask them what they studied, ‘civil engineering,’ ‘electrical engineering,’ ‘automotive engineering,’ ‘structural engineering.’ ‘I told you!’ Aaron shouts, ‘In India your life starts after your engineering degree.’ I have no doubt that their parents had only but the best intentions in mind. They most likely look at the world and see an incredibly competitive global workplace. Hoping to give their child the best chance to succeed they handpick a course of study they think will bring security. But what about the days of ‘you can be anything you want to be’? Is that just a nice phrase we tell children until they get older? Should it really be you can be anything you want to be, as long as it comes with a six figure salary, a company car and approving sentiments from the neighbors? We tell children to dream big, but if those dreams do not fall in line with what is socially acceptable or is not the ‘right’ choice, we tell them to dream again. Prithvi, another participant from Chennai was talking to me about his favorite soccer coaches, listing the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola. Prithvi then asked me, ‘Do you think an Indian will ever coach in the Premier League in England?’ ‘Why not?’ I responded, ‘why not you?’

    Slum Soccer, Nagpur, India

  • Pankaj’s Story

    CAC staff member Turner Humphries writes about a day in the life of Pankaj Mahajan, a Community Impact Coach from our long term partner Slum Soccer in Nagpur, India.

    November 20th 2015. Pankaj ascends from bed at 6:00 am, he washes his face, brushes his teeth and takes a small cup of tea before heading out the door. He borrows any moto available to get him to Nagpur’s city center for a practice session with fourteen year old boys and girls. He then departs for the Slum Soccer center in Bokhara – arriving around 7:45 am. He brings out all the football equipment that I will need for the on-field training and takes another cup of tea. As the clock closes in on 8:00 I reach the field. Having spotted me walking up the road, Pankaj has already retreated to the kitchen to prepare a cup of tea for me. As the program begins Pankaj is right by my side as he beckons the Hindi translation of the instructions I have given for the upcoming game. He then scurries to join his team to play; hounding attacking players with his insatiable appetite for a 50-50 challenge. After assisting me with my coaching session Pankaj sits down with the CEO of Slum Soccer to discuss an upcoming fair play tournament that he is in charge of organizing. Pankaj is hoping this tournament will give him the experience necessary to be a Young Leaders Coordinator for a Street Football World festival in France.  Following his meeting with the top brass of Slum Soccer, Pankaj sets about fulfilling his many Off-Field responsibilities. Emails must be sent, practices must be planned and reports must be written. Closing his laptop Pankaj heads back on the field, this time to observe and evaluate some of the Young Leaders of Slum Soccer as they try their hand at coaching games to local youth. Once the session is complete Pankaj makes his way back to the office to retrieve his trusted laptop. The lights of the office have been switched off, still he continues his work from home. Back at home another cup of tea is in order. With the last of his emails sent he begins refining his English skills with a booked entitled, Differences Between Mission and Vision. He shuttles back and forth between this book and the dictionary as he attempts to learn the words he does not understand. After dinner Pankaj mingles with friends and relative in his neighborhood. For an hour or so they listen to music and share tips on how to gain the interest of members of the opposite sex. The clock now reads 11:30 pm – it is time for Pankaj to go to bed. Before he switches off the lights he squeezes in five more pages of his book.

    Pankaj Mahajan is twenty-one years old and has recently become a senior coach with Slum Soccer. Just one year ago Pankaj’s circumstances were very different. After a battle with alcohol addiction his father committed suicide. Pankaj left college so he could care for his family. He began work painting houses and running a provisional store, earning around 1,000 rupees per month. His entire wage was going back to help support his family. As Pankaj shares his story with me he is calm and measured. Instead of being sad about the past he wants me to know he is focused on his future – I have no doubts it will be bright one. Pankaj is a Community Impact Coach with Coaches Across Continents. His hard work and dedication have made him a joy to be around, his sense of humor and genuine personality have made him a great friend.


  • We are India, and we ASK for Choice!

    CAC’s Sophie Legros talks about another week in Nagpur, India with Slum Soccer.

    June 4th 2015. All programs are different with CAC, but this week was especially so, and not only because of the record temperatures of 118°F! Instead of a usual CAC training and in continuation of our partnership with Chevrolet FC and Slum Soccer, I assisted Slum Soccer in running activities around their annual state and national women’s festival in Nagpur. U20 teams from all over the state and country came to play Homeless World Cup-style games in the evenings, avoiding the blistering middle of the day heat.

    Slum Soccer and their leaders have embraced the culture of sport for social impact. Although teams were competing to win the state and national cup, On-Field sessions were organized in the mornings and classroom sessions later in the day so that players had a chance to learn and develop as individuals. I worked with both the girls and the Slum Soccer leaders on CAC’s new ASK for Choice curriculum. Games were played to teach about women’s rights, to question society’s attitudes regarding women and to reflect on what choices the girls want to make in their lives.

    A game that went particularly well was Indonesia for Choice. Four teams stand in four separate squares and have to come up with a word that describes first a man and then a woman in their community. When two words are called out, the two associated teams play a game where they try to bring the ball into the square of the other team. It is not only a fun football game, it also allows for engaging discussions about society’s perceptions of women in men. The Slum Soccer leaders, being advanced in their understanding of the CAC curriculum and of the problems of gender inequality in their community, came up with honest, power, good listener and patient to describe a man and with education, empower, freedom and all-rounded for a woman. The Slum Soccer leaders are not only aware of the gender norms in their community, they have also reflected on what is needed to achieve greater gender equality.

    Some of the young women we had worked with in Kolkata participated in the tournament. It was their first time playing in a tournament and probably the first time they had worn sports clothes. It was a true joy to witness the team’s evolution since the first time they walked onto the Chevrolet FC field just a few weeks ago. What Slum Soccer did particularly well was to make sure all teams, whatever their level, could participate. Teams of varying levels and experience, some having played for more than nine years at the national level, others just beginning, came together to celebrate women and sports.

    On the last day, girls and Slum Soccer coaches shared their stories about how they started playing football and what impact it has had on their life. It was inspiring to hear these stories which served as a reminder for everyone that the value of sport far exceeds that of winning and losing.

    Over the week, more than a hundred young women showcased their abilities and defied stereotypes that girls are weak and cannot play football. One of Slum Soccer’s greatest achievements is that the boys fully support the change. The official photographer was surprised at how much more exciting the women’s tournament was compared to the men’s, which took place a few months earlier, because in particular of the cheering on the sidelines. At the end of the week, the message was clear: “We are India and we ASK for Choice!”